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Harvey A E   Pte  2261

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 6 years, 11 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918

 

 

Pte Albert Edward Harvey seated, with two unidentified friends. Australian

War Memorial Collection. http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P06856.001

 

 

Harvey A E   Pte  2261    Albert Edward         23 Inf Bn    24    Labourer    Single    C of E        

Address:    Ascot Vale, The Parade, 223    

Next of Kin:    Harvey, John, father, 223 The Parade, Ascot Vale    

Enlisted:    12 Jul 1915        

Embarked:     A20 Hororata 27 Sep 1915    

 

Date of death: 23/08/1916

CWGC: "Son of John and Ellen Edith Harvey, of 223, The Parade, Ascot Vale, Victoria".

VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL

 

Relatives on Active Service:

Harvey J D Pte 2160 brother

Manderson W Pte 5626 cousin KIA

Manderson E J A Pte 3826 cousin

Manderson A L G Pte 3360 cousin

Manderson H Pte 5627 cousin

Manderson R R B Pte 5376 cousin

Doig R G Pte 7472 cousin

Doig C G Pte 993 cousin DOW

Lukey A N Pte 4542 cousin

 

 

 

Private Albert Edward Harvey

 

Rod Martin

 

July 1915 saw the largest single number of recruits for the Australian Imperial force during the First World War.   In that month, 36 575 young Australian men signed up, spurred on by the heroic (and often fictionalized) stories of the men at Gallipoli, by government propaganda, and by events such as the sinking of the British liner Lusitania by the ‘wicked Hun’, with the loss of 1 100 lives.  Despite the ever-growing lists of casualties from Anzac, these ‘Fair Dinkums’, as they came to be known, wanted to do their bit for king and empire.  One of them was Bert Harvey, a twenty-three year-old timber labourer 165 centimetres tall, with dark brown hair and brown eyes.  He enlisted on 12 July, originally being assigned to 29 Battalion.  He went to Broadmeadows to train and, while there, was transferred to 23 Battalion.  On 27 September, he boarded A20 HMAT Hororata and sailed for the Middle East.

 

With his compatriots, Bert arrived in Egypt by the beginning of November, and moved to the new training camp at Tel el Kebir (deliberately located a fair distance from Cairo after the disruptive antics of the first expeditionary force in that city).  He and his group of reinforcements did not travel to Gallipoli.  Instead, they stayed in the desert, only meeting the rest of 23 Battalion after Gallipoli was evacuated in December.  They remained in Egypt until March 1916 and then sailed for France on the nineteenth of that month.  Arriving in Marseilles on 26 March, they entrained for the Western Front, travelling in covered goods wagons.

 

23 Battalion’s first stay was in the so-called ‘nursery sector’ near Armentières in the northern part of the country.  On 10 April the men travelled to Fleurbaix and the next day occupied forward trenches for the first time.  The sector was a relatively quiet part of the front: hence the ‘nursery’ connotation.  It allowed the men to acclimatize without putting them under too much pressure and in too much danger.  The battalion commander reported that their first day was ‘very quiet . . . occasional shot from enemy.’  However, sniping and intermittent bombardments presented dangers and the men had to be on their toes.

 

23 Battalion stayed in reserve at Fort Rompu during May and part of June, and then moved to Rue de Bois and trench duty for the latter part of the month. They were now in the Somme Valley in the Picardy region of France. The British high command had planned a major offensive in this area, to begin on 1 July.  The idea was to put pressure on the Germans, requiring them to transfer forces from their siege of the French fortress of Verdun, further south.   At the same time, a battle at the Somme would be a good opportunity for the British to fight alongside French forces, thus providing them with moral support at a difficult time.  The Somme was to be a political battle rather than one with a major strategic objective.  Even if the attack were successful, the impact on the war as a whole would be minor.

 

As it turned out, the French were sorely pressed by the slaughter at Verdun, and few French soldiers were available for the Somme.  Consequently, it was the British and commonwealth forces that bore the brunt of the battle.  And what a slaughter it was in its turn.  The British lost 60 000 casualties on the first day, 20 000 of them deaths.  In the words of A.J.P. Taylor, it was the heaviest loss ever suffered in a single day by a British army or any army in the First World War.  By the time the battle petered out in November, 1 265 000 men from both sides were dead or wounded.  David Shermer comments that, together, Verdun and the Somme marked the decimation of European manhood.

 

When the battle began, 23 Battalion was not involved in the charges across no man’s land.  Instead, it manned trenches at Rue de Bois, supporting raids designed to prevent the Germans from transferring reinforcements to the main point of battle.

 

German photo of shells bursting on the Somme battlefield  (AWM H12407) 

 

As with combat all along the Western Front, this activity was not without its dangers.  By 4 July, the battalion had lost five men killed and eighteen wounded, mainly as a result of shell fire.  It was relieved the next day and moved to nearby Steenwerck in order to recuperate and prepare for an upcoming attack at Pozières.  After moving around the Armentières area for a while, Bert and the others moved back towards the Somme, arriving at Pozières on 26 July, three days after the first attack there, taking up position in the reserve trenches.

 

The attack by 1 Australian Division at Pozières was designed to capture the village (long since obliterated) and an important ridge that would provide access to a plateau leading to the town of Bapaume – the ultimate target of the Battle of the Somme.  The village was captured quite quickly, and then the men successfully resisted a series of devastating counter-attacks.  However, the human cost on both sides was very high.

 

A souvenir of the Somme, 1916  (Courtesy of Maree Comb)

 

2 Australian Division, of which 23 Battalion was part, relieved 1 Division and went into attack just after midnight on 29 July, following what Les Carlyon describes as a ‘soft’ artillery barrage.  The Germans were waiting and bombarded them with shrapnel shells and mortars.  In attempting to cover 600 yards to the first German trenches, many of the men became lost in the dark.  Others did make the trenches, fighting their way over uncut barbed wire, but were quickly thrown out. The attack failed.  By the end of July, when 23 Battalion withdrew from the front line, its numbers were down from 1004 men on 26 July to 687.

 

The relief was brief, however.  On 2 August, a second assault resulted in the capture of some positions beyond the village.  Again, the Germans counter-attacked, causing myriad casualties.  By the time the battalion was relieved on 6 August and went into reserve at Warloy, it had lost 339 men.

 

By the end of July, Pozières had become yet another war of attrition, with attacks and counter-attacks on both sides.  After a final attempt on 7 August, the Germans gave up the idea of recapturing the village.

 

Pozières, showing the Australian trenches of July 1916 (AWM E00012)

http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/E00012

 

British commander-in-chief Sir Douglas Haig then decided to extend control of the ridge by capturing the German strongpoint at nearby Mouquet Farm.  On 8 August, the first of what would total nine separate attacks took place.  It failed.  By 22 August, when 23 Battalion re-entered the front line, several successive failures had occurred.

 

The Mouquet Farm battlefield, October 1916   (AWM H15927)

http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/H15927

 

On 23 August, the area was reasonably quiet for most of the day, the Germans conducting intermittent barrages, mainly aimed towards the communication trenches.  Around 4 pm, however, the shellfire became heavy and continuous. At approximately 8.30 in the evening, the Germans concentrated on the forward trench, and the battalion commander reported a number of casualties and commented that the trench had fallen in. At 9.15, the bombardment changed in focus, the rear of the front line being targeted, and a trench near the headquarters being badly blown in.

 

At some stage during these bombardments, Bert was killed.  We do not know the exact details, as no Red Cross report of his death exists.  It may well be that he was buried when one of the trenches collapsed.  His body may have been blown apart in the process. This happened to many men on the Western Front, and many of them were never found.  Certainly, that was Bert’s fate.  No record of a grave exists.  In consequence, his name and details are recorded on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial.

 

 

The Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in the background.  Photo courtesy

of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

 

 

"To the Glory of God and in memory of the Australian Imperial Force in France and Flanders,

1916-1918 and of eleven thousand who fell in France and have no known grave".

Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

Bert Harvey's name on the Villers-Brettoneaux Memorial. 

Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

Villers-Bretonneux Cemetery taken from the tower of the Memoria.  Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

 

Mouquet Farm was never captured during the Pozières attack, despite the loss of 11 000 Australian casualties during the nine assaults.  The whole Pozières campaign cost Australia  24 139 casualties, 6 741 of them deaths.  This was Australia’s largest single loss in any battle at any time.  The place was a slaughterhouse.  The gain: Pozières village and the ridge behind it.

 

 

The old Mouquet Farm battlefield, September 1917   (AWM E01011)

http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/E01011

 

It was estimated that 23 Battalion lost almost ninety per cent of its original members at Pozières and Mouquet Farm.

 

 

 

Australian 1st Division Memorial at Pozieres, looking towards Moquet Farm. 

Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

 

Memorial at Mouquet Farm (or Moo-cow Farm as the diggers like to call it, looking towards the farm. 

Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

Detail of the Australian memorial at Moquet Farm.  Courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

 

Looking along the ridge from the Windmill towards Mouquet farm. Peaceful farmland again.  Photo courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011.

 

Sources

 

Australian War Memorial (Collection)

Carlyon, Les: The Great War, Sydney, Macmillan, 2006

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Comb, Maree

National Archives Australia

Shermer, David: World War I, London, Octopus, 1974

Taylor, A. J. P.: The First World War: an illustrated history, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1966  

Travers, Richard: Diggers in France: Australian soldiers on the Western Front, Sydney, ABC Books, 2008

 

War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall F-L

Moonee Ponds West State School*

St Pauls Anglican Church, Ascot Vale

Anzac Honoured Dead 23 Aug 1916

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour killed

 

In Memoriam

 

HARVEY.-In loving memory of our dear son and
brother, Albert Edward (Bert), 23rd Battalion, who
was killed in action in France, August 23
1916.
'Midst Pozieres illustrious dead,
Our stretcher-bearing hero's laid;
But we, for whom his blood was shed,
Shall never let his memory fade.
-(Inserted by his loved ones, 223 The Parade,
Ascotvale, Jack and Frank, on active service in
France.)

The Argus 23 August 1917
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1644661

 

HARVEY. -In sad and loving memory of our
dearly beloved son and brother Prlvate Albert
Edward (Bert), A Company, 23rd Battalion who 
was killed in action August 23, 1916, at
Pozieres.
In sacred Pozieres, still rest
The spirits of that glorious band
Who two years since with pride went west,
And honoured this their dear homeland.
-(Inserted by his loved ones 223 Parade, Ascot
vale.)

The Argus 23 August 1918

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1426650

 

HARVEY.-In loving memory of our dear son
and brother, No. 2261, Pte. A, E. Harvey,
23rd Battalion, killed in action in France, August
23, 1916
He shall always be first in our memory,
Though his grave is far over the foam,
Where he fell 'midst the thunder of battle .
Fighting for us at home.
--(Inserted by his loved ones, 223 Parade,
Ascot vale.)

The Argus 23 August 1919

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4701994

 

HARVEY.-In ever loving memory of our dear son
and brother, Albert Edward, killed in action
22nd August, 1916.
Love and remembrance last for ever.
-(Inserted by his father, brother, and sister,  
223 Parade, Ascotvale.)
The Argus 23 August 1920
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4588461

 

HARVEY A loving tribute to the memory of
our dear son and brother Albert Edward Har-
vey, late 23rd Battalion killed in action in France
on August 23, 1916. 
A loving, remembrance
(Inserted by his loved ones, 223 Parade, Ascot
vale)

The Argus 23 August 1921

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4669082

 

No family message in The Argus in 1922

 

MANDERSON-DOIG-HARVEY - In loving
memory of our dear nephews and cousins, Will,
killed In action 5th May, 1917, Gordon, died of
wounds, 25th September, I917; also Bert Harvey,    
killed in action 23rd August. 1916
Ever remembered   
-(Inserted by Aunt Flo and cousins, Norm, Floss
and Vic, Moonee Ponds.)*

The Argus 5 May 1922

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4653328

 

* Lukey family.

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